Wednesday, 24 February 2016


So many things are puzzling me just now. How to get into the garage is one of them, as the dishwasher is parked in front of the door. The kitchen is still in a state of disorder as the damp has been stopped, but everything else is fluid. I could swear cupboards change places in the middle of the night, and the ones that are destined for the tip are trying to climb out of the windows. The sink has been reconnected but the hot and cold taps are the wrong way round.

(US readers - tap = faucet)

I'm puzzled that all kitchens are supposed to be fitted. A fitted kitchen unit is something with a back that drops off, and you can't reach behind it to find out what's making that noise/smell/damp patch on the wall. What's the matter with cupboards? I have to explain to everyone involved in this process that I DON'T WANT A FITTED KITCHEN. I have to say it several times a day. I fear I will start saying it to the postman, strangers in the street, the cat in the garden. Much and Hamilton, not to mention Tony, duck when they see me coming. I need to open a window and shout - I DON'T WANT A FITTED KITCHEN!

(US readers - postman = mailman)

I'm puzzled about The Archers, because none of them have worked out what a ratbag Rob Tichener is. (Except Kirsty, and I suspect he's hiring a hitman for her.)

I'm puzzled about what Boris Johnson is for. I'm puzzled about why anyone votes for Donald Trump. I am sure of this, though - I am absolutely rock-solid sure, that I have the most wonderful, outstanding, life-changing amazing children in the world. Bless you.

(US readers - Boris Johnson = you don't want to know.)

Friday, 19 February 2016


Floor. The House of Stories is missing one.

What happened was, we had a little problem with damp and called the experts in. It turned out that the little problem with damp was due to the previous dishwasher which must have been dripping from a dodgy pipe since before it was even invented. All the horrible kitchen units that I never liked in the first place are lying around looking beaten up and insensible. There are joists to be replaced and a big hole where the floor ought to be. However, those nice lads have tidied up after themselves and patched up so that we have running water and something to walk on over the weekend.

Their contract is to put everything back once they've finished. We've talked about that. No way. I never liked those fitted cupboards in the first place and there is no way they're going back in my kitchen. What would Crackle think of a fitted kitchen? Precious little, I imagine. I want real cupboards and I don't mind getting them from an old curiosity shop. What else would I like? A washing pulley for the laundry, enough space for my old kitchen table, two scullerymaids, and a cook.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Crackle and Ouch

Little Ouch has been hanging around the kitchens a lot lately, and he is beginning to make himself useful. He started snuffling around the tower door, hoping for a glimpse of Urchin, waiting for his sisters, or hoping to find something helpful to do. (Both Ouch's sisters work here now. Furtle is very young, but Thripple, who is amazingly patient with her, lets her help.)

At first he just used to grub about finding worms and beetles for himself and his sisters, and then he asked me about what I needed in the kitchen and became very useful at finding berries for me. In the autumn all he had to do was wobble about in a hedge to come out covered with rosehips and blackberries, and he was very pleased with himself for being helpful. I always rewarded him with a few berries for himself. He's a bit like Hope at the same age. When winter came he'd bring fir cones, acorns, and any useful bits of root he could dig up. He's such a little thing, and it was so cold, so I'd bring him in to the kitchen for a hot cordial and a biscuit or some porridge.

At one time, if we were having roast chestnuts, we'd have to sit around piercing each one with a knife so that they didn't explode while cooking. That's a long and fiddly job when we have a whole Tower full of animals to cater for. Now we just put them in a basket and let Ouch roll about in them. It can be difficult pulling them off the prickles, though, because he says it tickles. A giggling hedgehog may be very sweet, but a giggling sharpest-hedgehog-on-the-island is downright dangerous. Ouch.

Thursday, 11 February 2016


I love waterfalls. So, by the way, do most of the animals on Mistmantle. Let's see if I can find some of my favourites -

Krimml falls in Austria. The only time in my life when I've looked down at rainbows.

Not altogether sure about this one, but it may be the Hareshaw Linn.

It's the sheer reckless, hurtling power of them that leaves me awed and speechless, and the way they keep going though you think there can't be so much water in the world. From side to side spouts shatter themselves to raindrops on rocks or gather in calm pools while the rest of the water goes on flinging itself over the edge. Bright little green plants, clinging to the sides, thrive on it.

I read somewhere recently that God's mercy, like water, will always pool in the deepest and darkest places. There goes mercy, there goes the waterfall, falling headlong to the empty places that aren't empty any more. It's not a controlled pouring, it's wild, dangerous and unstoppable. Like a Word, or a Light, or a Man, throwing himself down from the heavens, hurtling into whatever is deepest and darkest. He falls. He shatters. Life thrives. The waterfall never stops.

Saturday, 6 February 2016


I've just had two days in the beautiful, ancient city of York, meeting my agent and teaching writing workshops. I had a wonderful time, and so, I'm glad to say, did everybody else involved. Here is one of the exercises I gave, and you might like to think about it.

Quieten yourself down. Find the still place inside yourself. Slowly, scene by scene, go over yesterday. If you're doing this late in the evening, go over today.

Whatever sort of a day it was, even if it was one you'd rather write off, you will find, as you slowly go through it, that there was a moment of gold, a moment to keep. Something you did, something you saw or thought, some scene you observed, some shaft of light. There was a moment that made you smile, feel good, or laugh a lot. Take that moment. Dust it off, turn it round, look at it. Relive it. Enjoy it again.

When you've done that, make a few notes about that moment. Carry it around for a little while. It may lead you to a story, a poem, a prayer or a meditation. If words aren't your thing, it could lead you to draw or paint, or make music, or do some simple act of kindness. Plant the moment and see what grows. And enjoy it!